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IN THE KITCHEN : Red Beans and Rice and Everything's Nice


Got the rhythm yet?

Let's see, you wake up, shower, grab a cup of coffee and a piece of toast and hit the highway. Work, work, work. Grab a quick lunch. Work, work, work. Drive home. Drive the kids to swimming/soccer/drama practice. Come back for a little algebra review (2(3-4x) + -3(7x+8)=-7, solve and show your work) and maybe some history (Did Columbus discover America? Careful now . . .). Watch "Frasier." Put the kids to bed. Grab a half-hour's reading and ZONK.

Are we forgetting something?

Oh, right, dinner.

It may not seem fair, but you've still got to eat. What's even worse, somewhere in that mess of scheduling somebody's got to cook. (What's that you say? Why don't you just microwave something and eat during the commercials? We'll pretend we didn't hear that.)

Obviously, this is not the time to break out a new cookbook, to search the market for the best in seasonal produce, or to indulge the whims of culinary fancy. Save those for the weekends.

One solution in times like these is to have fallback dishes--things you can put together without really having to think. Food you can fix in your sleep (or, more accurately, while you're wishing you could go to sleep).

In our house, weekday dinners tend to revolve around goat cheese quesadillas (we're not snooty--for years my daughter was allergic to regular cheese), quick pizzas made with packaged crusts (this time of year, these are the ideal final resting place for the leftover peppers and eggplant you grilled for Saturday night's dinner), pastas and one or two dishes such as red beans and rice.

A Creole classic, red beans and rice is, by definition, weekday fare--in New Orleans, it's always served on Mondays. But this is not the authentic red beans and rice. Actually, it's more like what I think red beans and rice should taste like. With all apologies to Louis Armstrong (who used to sign his autograph "Red Beans and Ricely Yours"), I've never had a classic version of red beans and rice that I fell in love with.

In the real dish, red beans are cooked with sausage in a thick sauce that is served atop plain boiled rice. But the thick sauce is too heavy and the plain rice is too bland.


So, in this version, I season the rice with a bit of good smoked sausage (along with the Creole trinity of onions, bell peppers and celery) and stir in the red beans at the end. What you get is a hearty, warm, smoky dish of rice studded with sausage and almost sweet-tasting beans. Best of all, you end up with it in less than half an hour.

Wait a minute! Wasn't tonight the school orchestra concert?


1 stalk celery, diced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 green pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon oil

2 bay leaves

1/2 pound kielbasa sausage, cut into quarters lengthwise, then into 1-inch sections

1 cup rice

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken stock

1 (15 1/4-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons minced parsley

Salt, pepper

Hot pepper sauce

In 2 1/2-quart saucepan over medium heat saute celery, green onions, green pepper and garlic in oil. When tender add bay leaves and sausage. Cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes, until sausage is well cooked with flavorings. Add chicken stock. Add chicken stock. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 15 minutes.

Uncover and stir kidney beans and parsley into rice mixture. Cover again and cook another 2 to 3 minutes to heat beans through.

Before serving, remove bay leaves. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

334 calories; 1,136 mg sodium; 26 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 39 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams protein; 0.95 gram fiber.

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